What is an Advanced Health Care Directive? Why Do I need it?

What is an Advanced Health Care Directive or AHCD?

AHCD - Instructs the Hospital where you are being treated on how you want to be treated and cared for. Gives the power to an Agent to be your representitive and enforce your instructions legally. Without this document someone else will decide how you are treated and whether you will be removed from life support or not --- Please see case of Terry Schiavo

An Advanced Health Care Directive:

  1. Designates an Agent that will enforce your rights while you’re under the care of a physician and are considered disabled and cannot communicate your treatment to your doctor or attending physician. Always choose a person that lives close by and is able to be at the hospital if you have an emergency and make sure to tell them. Your Life Cards that you carry should also be updated with your agent’s name and contact information and give access to health care professionals to your actual Advanced Health Care Directive.
  2. Duration – When does the power of the agent go into effect and when does it expire. The power usually goes into effect at the signing of the document and expires after the death of the individual. The directive from you is in effect whether your agent is there or not because the document itself instructs the attending professionals in how you wish to be treated. You really do not put the burden on your Agent they just do what you ask of them and make sure that it is carried out.
  3. Care Instructions -  this ranges from the type and facility of care that you will need such as assisted living or psychiatric care if you develop Alzheimer’s or some other disability. If you become unresponsive and you are on life support when is it okay to take you off and not resuscitate. This all has to do with the very famous Terry Shivo case where two sets of family legally battled over pulling the plug on life support. Again the clearer you can be then the easier it will be to just follow the instructions and not put the burden on to your agent.
  4. Medical Record Release information – Gives the power to your agent to release confidential information to care givers that will help them with your care.
  5. Pain Relief – Gives the power or non-power to administer pain relief so that you can be as comfortable as possible when going through a crisis.
  6. Grant Releases – Agent can sign waiver or release of liability so that medical personnel can perform duties while under their care.
  7. HIPAA – Representative – Agent has authorization to release all HIPAA or confidential medical information to medical professionals in the case of emergency care.
  8. Court Proceedings – If any court proceedings are to be taken while you are under care your Agent can instruct the court on your wishes and may act in your place. Your agent may be appointed guardian if necessary.
  9. Agent has power to instruct Third Parties on Health issues, Agent cannot be found to be liable and the Agent may be reimbursed for any expenses that are incurred for being Agent. 
James Zakasky
An estate attorney who goes beyond drafting wills and creating trusts